In Friday afternoon’s City Council meeting, council members signaled support for holding the 2024 Bond election in May and increasing the bond balance from $1.1 billion to $1.25 billion.
Because it was a special called session, the council was unable to hold a legally binding vote. Their signals of support are intended to aid city staff planning and signify that the measures will likely pass when voted on in the council’s next meeting.
All 14 city council members were present at the meeting while Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson was absent. The increase to the bond capacity passed 13-1. The call to hold the bond election in May rather than November passed 11-3.
Both measures came recommended by city staff.
Staff presented $150 million that could be pulled from the $400 million city pension reserve and added to the bond, bringing the total amount to $1.25 billion. Dallas Chief Financial Officer Jack Ireland said the reallocation would not impact the city’s long term finances, and would be replaced in 2030 when other city debts are paid off.
Ireland said the pension reserves are typically used for pension obligation bonds, which the city does not anticipate recommending due to the current state of the market.
Staff also stated their preference for a May election due to the “momentum” their efforts currently have behind them. If the bond is not voted on in a May election it will be pushed to November, when staff warned a Presidential election, state elections and the Dallas city charter amendment measures could lead to “a long ballot with city issues at the end …. resulting in ballot fatigue.”
“If we defer until November that defers for six months funding for these projects,” said council member Paul Ridley. “(It’s) for the benefit of our constituents that we have this decision made in May.”
Council member Paula Blackmon said she had initially been in favor of a November election before city staff shared that a May election would not incur undue cost on the city. Blackmon also voiced that a May election would allow council members to meet with constituents about the bond as a single issue, rather than competing with a long ballot.
But some council members were concerned funding allocations have not been ironed out enough to warrant a May election. In a timeline presented by city staff, the council would vote on individual propositions during their Jan. 31 meeting.
Council member Cara Mendelsohn said she felt the council was “rushing to a vote” after only one prior briefing. Mendelsohn voiced concern for what she sees as ambiguous housing and repetitive streets propositions. Housing “hasn’t been on a city bond” in the past, and Mendelsohn encouraged the horseshoe to consider the yearly city budget that could be utilized for projects.
The point raised an objection from council member Adam Bazaldua, who said cuts to the city budget have left the council with less flexibility for issues like housing affordability and homelessness.
“All of these things have to be addressed and I don’t believe we can put all our eggs in one basket,” Bazaldua said. “We were elected to take care of all of the issues in our city … we should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”
City staff and the bond task force will now finalize the funding recommendations for each proposition of the bond, and each proposition will be voted on individually by the council as early as Jan. 31.